An initiative sponsored by the Association pour la santé publique du Québec

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Benefits of Active Transportation

Walking and bicycling are means of transportation affordable and accessible to all age groups. Below are some of the benefits that walking and bicycling afford.

Numerous benefits for…

  • People who live in walk-friendly neighbourhoods engage in 35 to 45 minutes more of physical activity than do those from a similar socioeconomic class who live in walk-unfriendly neighbourhoods. They are also less likely to be overweight or obese [1, 2].
  • Each kilometre walked on a daily basis is associated with a nearly 5% lower chance of being obese [3].
  • Intensive motor vehicle traffic considerably diminishes people’s sense of security and their level of social interaction. Children in high-traffic neighbourhoods (which are often disadvantaged) are more inclined to remain indoors. It is important to point out also that the sense of belonging to a city or neighbourhood depends on the sense of security and well-being the place inspires and that it contributes even to reduce crime in neighbourhoods [4].
  • Municipalities that afford their citizens the possibility to be active on a daily basis by providing a walk- and bicycle-friendly physical environment and that offer appealing sport and recreation services and infrastructures easily accessible to their population:
    • Significantly increase their recreation and tourism drawing power [5]
    • Offer families a quality living environment from a social and health perspective [6, 7]
    • Increase the sense of belonging of their citizens and enhance their social capital [8, 9]
    • Increase their power to draw new residents, investors, and workers and thus to foster economic development and generate additional revenues [10, 11]
the economy
  • Dense and walk-friendly neighbourhoods offer various economic benefits:
    • They allow households to reduce their transportation costs [12, 13].
    • They allow municipalities to increase their tax revenues through both higher property tax evaluations and lower infrastructure costs [14].
    • They reduce the work hours lost in traffic jams [15].
    • They reduce health costs thanks to the benefits of regular exercise [16].
  • The infrastructures required by cyclists and pedestrians are extremely modest compared with those required by means of motorized transportation [17].
  • Walkways and bicycle paths in urban areas can constitute tourist attractions and stimulate the local economy.
    • It has been estimated that bicycle tourism in Quebec generated $131 million in economic activity in 2012 [18].
    • Pedestrians and cyclists are more inclined to spend their money in businesses close to home, which necessarily enhances the economic viability of their community [19].
the environment
  • Motorized transportation is directly related to the production of greenhouse gases and, in turn, to climate change and higher temperatures in urban areas. Thus, aside from fostering a physically active lifestyle, a higher rate of utilization of active modes of transportation would have a positive impact on the environment [20].
Would you like to discuss this topic with us?

Contact Corinne Voyer, Director:


[1] Ewing, R., Schmid, T., Killingsworth, R. & coll. (2003). Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Physical Activity, Obesity, and Morbidity. American Journal of Health Promotion, 18 (1), 47–57.

[2] Sallis, J., Saelens, B., Frank, L. & coll. (2009). Neighborhood Built Environment and Income: Examining Multiple Health Outcomes. Social Science & Medicine, 68 (7), 1285–1293.

[3] Direction de la santé publique de Montréal. (2006). Le transport urbain, une question de santé. (Rapport annuel 2006 sur la santé de la population montréalaise). Montréal, Québec : Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal. Repéré le 13 juillet 2013.

[4] Whitelegg, J. Critical Mass: Transport, Environment and Society in the Twenty-first Century. London, Chiago : Pluto Press.

[5] Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal (2012). Environnement urbain – Activité physique en milieu municipal – Stratégies. Repéré le 12 juillet 2013.

[6] et [8] Global Advocacy Council of Physical Activity, International Society of Physical Activity and Health (2010). La Charte de Toronto pour l’activité physique : un appel mondial à l’action. Repéré le 12 juillet 2013.

[7] Bergeron, K. & Cragg, S. (2009). Encourager le transport actif : Bulletin no1 : Les avantages du transport actif pour la santé. Ontario, Ottawa : Institut canadien de la recherche sur la condition physique et le mode de vie.

[9] Bergeron, K. & Cragg, S. (2009). Encourager le transport actif : Bulletin no7 : Le transport actif et le capital social. Ontario, Ottawa : Institut canadien de la recherche sur la condition physique et le mode de vie.

[10], [18] et [19] Bergeron, K. & Cragg, S. (2009). Encourager le transport actif : Bulletin no3 : Les avantages économiques du transport actif. Ontario, Ottawa : Institut canadien de la recherche sur la condition physique et le mode de vie.

[11], [12] et [14] Québec en forme (2011). Les bénéfices économiques des espaces verts, des installations de loisirs et des aménagements urbains favorables à la marche. Faits saillants de la recherche. Numéro 4. Repéré le 12 juillet 2013.

[13], [15], [16], [17] et [20] Transport Canada (2008). Programme de démonstration en transport urbain – Études de cas sur les transports durables. Planification urbaine pour les bicyclettes. Repéré le 12 juillet 2013.